Before you read this, take a deep breath. Hold it. And blow it out. Now that you’re calm, welcome to the Pac 12 preview — where your offseason aspirations get hit with some hard truths.
This isn’t an ordinary preview. This is a fun preview. An accurate preview. A preview that only mentions 4 teams worth paying attention to this year. If you’re a Beavers fan you should probably stop reading now. You’re not one of the 4. If you’re a Cal fan…just kidding, we know you don’t exist.
Washington Huskies Prediction: 9-3, 7-2 in conference play (4th in Pac-12)
The Huskies weren’t going to be in this preview. I had no intention of covering Washington. However, after gaming out their season, they ended up at 9-3 overall. The air is fresher in Seattle these days, with the calls answered for Jimmy Lake to be fired and dumped into Union Bay.
The Huskies are due for a bounce back after an immediate injection of a new, better culture into the football program. Washington returns a roster with talent across the defensive side of the ball and a new offensive identity provided by an experienced play caller.
What the Huskies don’t have is a quarterback they can count on. Pennix is fine, but adding him to the roster underscores what has been missing from Washington: development of talent on the offensive side of the ball. A piss poor product last year should evolve as the season goes on.
Utah Utes Prediction: 9-3, 7-2 in conference play (3rd in Pac-12)
Why am I so low on Utah? It’s not what they bring back. They have one of the top WRs and RB duos in the Pac-12. Their defensive backs are elite with a capital E. Their head coach has been known in recent years to be a great developer of talent despite a roster talent that is below the success he has had there.
Utah will need to replace their top target at WR, two leaders along in the offensive line in their LT and Center, and nearly all of their front 7 on the defensive side of the ball. This will be a challenge for a team that has historically started seasons slow and faces off against a hungry Florida Gators team in Gainesville to start the year.
9-3 is a solid year for Utah football. It’s a respectable year for a team not littered with talent. It will be an underperforming year for those that pay too close of attention to preseason fodder.
Oregon Ducks Prediction: 9-3, 8-1 in conference play (2nd in Pac 12)
Is there any team more mysterious this year than the Oregon Ducks? A head coach that has never called a play on offense or defense. An offensive coordinator that has never called a play on offense. A defensive coordinator that was removed from his playcalling duties and asked to look elsewhere when he held the same position under Nick Saban.
What can not be looked over is how talented the Ducks roster is this year. They feature two of best linebackers in college football, a WR room that is nothing to overlook, and a QB that both started at because of and benched in spite of his daddy at Auburn.
What will kill Oregon this year is their coaching. This team will live and die on the potential of their talent and will be exposed for their lack of execution. This isn’t Mario Cristobal’s poor time management, and it will feel worse with the lofty expectations fans have despite an extremely favorable schedule.
USC Trojans Prediction: 11-1, 8-1 in conference play (1st in Pac 12)
USC hit the transfer portal harder than any other team has in the short history of the transfer portal to create a roster that is basically brand new from top to bottom. It’s a page out of Mel Tucker’s handbook last year at Michigan State. Fill the holes with what’s available. The X-factor for USC here is Lincoln Riley and his staff.
USC has one of the most dynamic play callers in college football in Lincoln Riley on the offensive side of the ball. He’s joined on that side of the ball by a RB coach formerly of Utah, OL coach from Texas A&M. They’ve been given one of the top QBs in college football, one of the most experienced OLs in the Pac-12, a Biletnikoff Award-winning WR, and the leader in All-Purpose yards in the Pac-12 at RB. This team is primed to put up points.
The question mark for USC is the defensive side of the ball. There is no question USC will be forced to play shootouts for a few games this year. However, it’s clear they have the coaching in place to put their players in the best opportunity to win those games. This will be a breakout year for USC, including a Pac-12 Championship win vs Oregon and the beginning of something huge in Los Angeles.